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mary's faceMy writing career began before I could actually write.   I never could stand being bored, so when dragged along on interminable shopping trips by my mother – an activity whose appeal I never could quite fathom, even as an adult – I entertained myself by making up stories about escapades by imaginary creatures in the fascinating universe that existed at the floor level  of Kauffman’s and Gimbel’s department stores.  You had these great  shadowy spaces tucked between racks of clothes and behind mannequins, obviously overflowing with magic,  and those mannequins themselves watched me with sardonic amusement, knowing that the grownups would never believe me if I told them that these things were alive.  You had interesting portals to other universes in the dressing room mirrors and strange girls peeped back at me, inviting me to step through while my mother was deciding between the blue and the green blouse. 

            I almost did, more than once. 

            But then, you had the dark spaces where the paneling didn’t quite fit flush to the wall, out of sight behind the saleslady’s desk. And that darkness watched me and I was pretty sure I caught the glint of a fang in there.  So maybe hiding in the clothes racks until after everybody left and wandering the store to sit on the gorgeous, velvet covered sofas, snuggle in the beautifully made up canopy beds, or sample the chocolate-dipped strawberries in the candy case by the escalator wasn’t really such a good plan after all. 

            So the stories were there from the start.  They converged with writing in grade school of course, but teachers weren’t really encouraging – you had to be born a writer, apparently, and I lacked  the scarlet W on the forehead – and mostly I just made up complex and ongoing stories to keep myself entertained when I got stuck somewhere without a book.   Or when the book I read didn’t have any good female characters or the end was awful and clearly I had to fix that.  And did.  I rewrote a lot of stories, especially when I discovered Science Fiction in the form of a box of old Galaxy and Amazing Stories magazines under the bed of a rented beach house.  Suddenly the enforced siestas were no problem at all.  And of course none of the stories had women characters who did fun stuff, so I had to revise them all…or the ones that interested me anyway. 

            It was a lot later, after I’d been writing and publishing nonfiction and had one publication in a scientific journal (I was working in endocrine research at the time), that I decided maybe I should write down some of these stories.  I sent the first one off to Stan Schmidt at Analog and off to the Clarion West submissions folk.  I got a sharp personal note from Stan (he apparently liked the story right up to the ending which was, he was quite right, rather abominably weak), but I got accepted to Clarion.  And attended in 1988.  And sold Gardner Dozois a story there, For a Price.  And the rest, as they say…  you can fill in the rest of the cliché yourselves. 

Eight published novels and more than sixty short stories later -- all published by major markets -- I still love writing as much as I did before I actually wrote the words down.   I have also discovered a second love and equal talent;  teaching.  I love sharing the gift and the passion and I have a lot of students and mentorees who have published.  Sharing my knowledge and expertise is as satisfying to me as writing.     

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